OMG, I was totally into this one as a kid. I mean, come on—it’s got a freaking horse on the cover.
What’s not to like? Snow White, the oh-so-creatively named mare, is looking fierce. Liz is rocking the poofy D.J. Tanner hair and Ginny Lu Culpepper (yep, that’s her name, I’m not even kidding here) looks like a mix between two of my favorite ginger girls:
Anne of Green Gables, and
And that dress. Is she going to a barn dance or something? Whatever, I still think it’s cool.
Check out that tagline… “Is there any room in Sweet Valley for an outsider?” Um, dude, WTF? I’m pretty sure that Sweet Valley isn’t like the Village.
All I’m saying is that if the Village had room for Bryce Dallas Howard, Sweet Valley probably has room for one cute little ginger kid, especially one that makes all these awesome little whittled dolls.
So we start with your typical gorgeous day in Sweet Valley, with Liz commenting to herself for the millionth time that she “was four minutes older, and even though it wasn’t much of a time difference, she often felt like she was four years older.” After I read that, I kind of threw up in my mouth a little. How many books have they used that line in? I know that we don’t really have time for, like, subtle character development here, but let’s try to keep it at least a little bit fresh.
Then there’s some crap about how Jessica is trying to make this really rude girl named Janet Howell like her, which, sadly, is pretty realistic in terms of how young girls act. It’s very Mean Girls—the more evil someone is, the more you want them to like you.
Turns out that Jessica is a complete desperate idiot who, in order to try to make Janet into her newest frenemy, loaned out Ned’s lucky tennis racket. Elizabeth is, of course, scandalized, but Jessica explains that it was for a tennis-date with a really cute ninth-grader. Umm… ok. First of all, what 13-year-old goes on a tennis date? I guess that’s what passes for fun in WASP-y Sweet Valley. And in what universe does a 15-year-old ninth-grade boy give the time of day to a 13-year-old girl? Gross. Nice parenting, Mr. And Mrs. Howell.
I’m hoping that Janet’s parents really were on an island, because if not, we’ve got a serious problem here. But anyway, Ned’s tennis racket somehow gets broken and now Jessica has to figure out some way to get 50 bucks to replace it. This mostly involves finding creative ways to make Liz’s life a living hell, like trying to sell Liz’s stuff in a garage sale but (unfortunately) getting caught before any money changes hands.
My favorite part is when Jess gives Liz (who has actually been saving her money) a big guilt trip at lunch because she’s supposedly suddenly too poor to buy food for herself. Ever heard of brown-bagging, Jess, you idiot? Finally Jessica manipulates Liz enough to steal her lunch:
At the sight of a single tear streaming down Jessica’s cheek, Elizabeth dropped the fork on the table and threw her hands in the air. She always gave in when her sister started to cry. “You win, Jessica. You can have a bite!” Then she added, “but just one!”
“Thanks, LIzzie,” Jessica said, her eyes glowing. She slid her sister’s tray in front of her. “You’re the greatest.”
Elizabeth sighed and rested her chin on her hand. Within second, Jessica had devoured her entire lunch—casserole and all.
Jessica, you effing rock.
But I guess the Jessica tennis racket thing is supposed to just be a sub-plot, and the main story is about Ginny Lu Culpepper (WTF?) moving to Sweet Valley from the “Smoky Mountains of Tennessee” and being treated like absolute dirt by Ellen and Lila. It makes no sense whatsoever, but then again, we are talking about Sweet Valley here. For example:
Ellen let out an exasperated sigh. “She’s from someplace in the Smoky Mountains called Stony Gap.” She giggled and added, “Can you imagine a place called Stony Gap?”
Ugh. Like Sweet effing Valley is so much better? I’m sure Stony Gap has some kind of colorful historical meaning, whereas Sweet Valley appears to be named this purely for the sake of irony. STFU, Ellen. You’re stupid.
So now Ginny Lu is getting humiliated on a daily basis because of her accent and clothes. Oddly, nobody seems to point out that her name is so hackneyed that she might as well be a member of the cast of Hee Haw or something. Putting that aside, though, Ginny Lu is actually kind of cool and (ok, maybe this is stretching things a bit) multi-faceted. While she does want to make friends and fit in, she’s still not about to kiss up to bitches like Lila and Ellen. Though she doesn’t exactly stand up for herself (what would Liz do, then?), Ginny Lu still maintains a helluva lot more dignity than conformist bitches like Jessica.
For example, when Ginny Lu’s aunt takes her shopping for clothes that will make Ginny Lu blend in more (instead of, say, trying to enhance Ginny Lu’s sense of self-worth in more meaningful ways) Lila and Ellen decide to be all bitch-face with Ginny Lu and get her to try on some outfits that are supposed to be truly heinous. My favorite:
The huge green sweater they had told her to put on was at least three sizes too big but Ellen has dais that everyone wore them that way. She knotted the long pink scarf around her neck and put on the [plastic banana] earrings.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something Claudia Kishi would rock. So, of course, I’m all for it.
But, of course, Ellen’s and Lila’s plan unravels when Ginny Lu’s aunt arrives and the saleslady is all like, “Is your niece colorblind?”
Yikes! She could totally give that sales lady that gave Julia Roberts a hard time in “Pretty Woman” a run for her money.
Ginny Lu is all humiliated and stuff, but instead of cowering in the face of adversity, she’s totally brave about everything:
When Ginny Lu stepped back out of the changing room with her old clothes on, she noticed her aunt and the girls were all still there. She was tempted to run right back into the dressing room, but instead, she tilted her chin up proudly and marched out of the store.
Go Ginny Lu! Why can’t this whole series be about you?
Ok, then there’s some crap about horses and Ellen being a huge beyotch when Ginny Lu makes friends with Snow White, Ellen’s pregnant mare. Somehow this ends with Ginny Lu (who, like all hill-folk, has a magical connection to farm animals) helping with the birth of Snow White’s premature foal, which means that Ellen has a total change of heart. Well, almost. Ginny Lu’s “reward” for saving the foal’s life is that she gets to name the baby. Shyeah… Uh, Ellen, maybe you could give the girl a gift certificate for some free riding lessons or something. Or maybe you could like, give her the pony whose life she miraculously saved. Just saying.
Oh, and there’s this other sub-plot with a Sweet Valley art show, where Liz gets the bright idea to encourage Ginny Lu to enter some of her corn-cob dolls and whittlings and shit so she can win the contest and gain the acceptance of her worthless peers. Because everyone from Tennessee does folksy crafting and stuff. Riiight. I guess the best part of this whole sub-plot is when Jessica makes her $50 by acting as Ginny’s “agent” and finding a buyer for her cute little handicrafts.
I think the moral of the story is this: if you need $50, find a way to get it without actually working for the money. Oh, I love you Jessica, you effed up little sociopath.
Also, I guess there’s something about accepting yourself for who you are and appreciating your unique talents, or whatever. Frankly, it’s hard to tell whether or not we want Ginny Lu to fit in and be just another Sweet Valley girl, or to continue to be the adorable hillbilly that we’ve come to love. Hmm.
Oh, yeah, and this one ends with a cliffhanger for the next book about a contest to have your picture put in a school time capsule, to be opened in twenty-five years. Of course Jessica is all over this one, since it’s just like her to care whether or not people in the future will eventually drool over her beautiful photograph.